Whales and Stolen Outboard

captain alex

11 September 2011 | east coast of Madagascar

The sail from Reunion to Madagascar was an easy three and a half day downwind run now that the autopilot was working again. On night two of the sail I was awoken to the sound of loud flopping in the saloon only to discover a foot long fly fish had somehow leaped out of a wave, through the galley hatch and was now dancing inside the boat. Christine and I managed to finally grab the guy and put him back in the deep blue so he could tell his tale. The next morning we caught a nice sized yellow fin tuna which had Kirk scrambling for the soy sauce and wasabi (fed us for three more meals after that and we still couldn’t finish it off).

We arrived at night at the island of Saint Marie and the next morning paid off the corrupt officials so our paperwork could be in order. Isle Saint Marie was the old pirate base during the 18th century and William Kidd is buried here as his treasure which we couldn’t find. What we did find was some of the famous Madagascar wildlife that has evolved independently over the past 90 million years since It broke away from Africa. The lemur seems to be a mix of a monkey, raccoon, and squirrel with some behavior qualities of a dog as it loves to be petted and one wouldn’t stop licking Christines leg. Another cool critter is the chameleon and after some natives help finding the camouflouge buggers we watched in amazement as they plucked grasshoppers out of our hands at lightning speed with toungues longer than their own bodies.

After three days there we set sail for the Baie d’ Antongil to look for humpback whales in the warm waters of the large bay as now was their calving season and they come here from Antarctica to brith. The bay is also known for the being the wettest area in Madagascar and through the night and the next morning that is what we got, wet. The rain and accompanying fog brought visibility to near zero and was quite frustrating as we had sailed 60 miles into this massive bay just to see the whales and would now have to sail all the way back out just to be back on course. Then at around noon the rains stopped, the clouds parted and the sun revealed where we were. My eyes scanned the horizon to start to look for the giant mammals and it wasn’t five minutes before I saw a breach about half a mile behind us. I had just yelled ‘whale!’ to get everyone on deck and was about the turn the boat around when I spotted two more off of our port. Then directly ahead of us in the distance I saw two more breeching turning their massive white bellies majestically towards the sky with elongated flippers gracefully parted and smacking the water to leave a splash twenty feet high. I climbed the mast to look over the bay and watch jump after jump. Later in the day we found an island to anchor at called Nosy Mangabe which also happened to be a nature reserve where hiking through the lush wet jungle with a native we spotted lemurs, chameleons, giant taranchelas, a boa constrictor and colorful but poisonous frogs.

The next day was set sail out of the bay and planning to anchor at its end left the dingy tied off the back dragging it along with us. With head winds the entire day we hadn’t found anchorage by nightfall and so decided to carry on sailing out of the bay turning downwind and up the coast. The winds increased to 30 knots and with it so did the swell taking Bubbles and Holes II surfing down the waves at different speeds resulting in violent jerks that eventually caused a ring on the dingy to break (fortunately I had learned from losing a dingy in the Carribean to always tied two painters and so Holes II was safe for now). By afternoon we finally found and island to tuck behind were we could put the dingy on deck as we were about to lose it. Surfing in I looked in awe as 100 yards away a humpback leaped out of a 10 foot wave away twirling in the air and smacking the water with a playful twist. Hard to grasp us humans ever wanted to kill such an amazing creature so close to us in the tree of life.

When in the lesser swell and but still in the wind Kirk and I scrambled to take down sail, hoist the dingy on deck, then raise the sail once again all before drifting into reef. While at the mast and Kirk on the boom adjusting the reefing line Kirk let out a yell and I thought he had gone overboard as I heard simultaneous splash but looked in surprise after ducking under the boom to see Kirk looking down on a mother humpback and calf that had come alongside the boat. He could have stepped off the boat onto the mothers back they were so close. We carried along up the coast at a fast pace running with the near gale winds until tucking into the bay of Diego Suarez and securely anchored by midnight. In the morning we woke up to find ourselves anchored next to a 200 foot ship wreck (only exposed at low tide) we has just missed coming in also that we had been boarded and robbed of our Yamaha 15 outboard motor. We were then approached by two natives in a dug out canoe where we communicated using broken French that they wanted us to pay them to be our security. My guess is these were the same guys who had robbed us or knew who did but it was of no use trying to get it back. We have three paddles and could use the exercise anyway.

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